The Drexel University wrestling team took the mat twice this past week, wrestling against two Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association opponents in New York. The first meet was held in Binghamton against Binghamton University; in the second meet, the Dragons faced the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
The great part about conference meets is that even when your record is below .500, as Drexel’s was heading into these games, a conference record can make up for it because the matches are much more important. Drexel came into this weekend hoping to improve on a conference record of 1-0.
Against Binghamton, the 125-pound weight class was the first match of the day, as redshirt freshman Eric Ochoa had a tough task ahead of him facing No. 27 David White. Ochoa wrestled with heart, but lost his match by fall, giving Binghamton the first points of the meet. No.15, Kevin Devoy Jr. stepped onto the mat next, looking to retaliate and give the Dragons their first points. Devoy was able to record a technical fall against his opponent. which tied the match.
In the 141-pound weight class division, David Pearce obtained a very important decision, which gave the Dragons an 8-6 lead. No. 22 Matthew Cimato wrestled in the 149-pound weight division, and was able to continue his impressive season with another win with a 5-1 decision. Noel Blanco followed three straight Drexel wins with a fourth win in the 157-pound weight class. Blanco won a 6-3 decision and put the Dragons on top of Binghamton 14-6 at the half.
The second half of this meet was the complete opposite of the first. Drexel struggled in the heavier weight classes and was unable to win a single match. Binghamton University had two ranked heavy-weights and the Dragons just could not outwrestle their men. The Bearcats took five straight matches, giving them a team score of 22, and leaving Drexel with a score of 14. This loss brought the Dragons to 4-7 on the year, and 1-1 in the conference.
Coach Matt Azevedo commented about the youth in the upper weight classes saying, “The last three weight classes we had freshman going up against juniors and seniors.” It is definitely a tough task to ask inexperienced athletes to compete against experienced peers, especially in wrestling.
The Dragons had the opportunity for redemption two days later Jan. 25. Drexel moved along in New York, traveling to West Point to take on Army in what would be the closest-fought meet of the year.
The match began at the 149-weight class where Cimato stepped onto the mat, looking to give the Dragons a good start. Cimato wrestled with toughness and won his match with a 6-2 decision. Moving on from 149, the 157-pound match featured Blanco and his opponent Russell Parsons, who was ranked at No.11. Blanco wrestled hard and with heart, as the redshirt senior regularly does, winning another match for the Dragons to increase the overall team score to 6-0.
From the 165- to the 197-pound weight class Army went on a run, winning all four matches, giving the Black Knights a 17-6 lead. Joey Goodhart, Drexel’s impressive freshman in the 285-pound weight class, put a stop to Army’s winning streak by earning a win-by-fall, which would tighten the team score gap to 17-12.
Ochoa, in the 125-pound division, was next. He was able to earn a huge 6-2 decision, which made the score 17-15. The order to start this match was an odd, but it seemed like it would work in Drexel’s favor, as the biggest match of the day, the 133-pound weight class, would feature No.15 Devoy. Devoy won his match by technical fall, giving Drexel a 20-17 lead with just one match remaining. In the 141-pound weight class Pearce wrestled hard but would narrowly lose a 9-7 decision. The loss tied the meet at 20, so the winner was chosen by the merit of total match points.
Hard, tough wrestling for the Dragons paid off as their 48 match points were superior to Army’s 43. This meant Drexel took the meet with a final team score of 21-20. The Dragons increased their overall record to 5-7, but more importantly they tallied another divisional win to give them a 2-1 record there.
Head coach Azevedo talked about the importance of getting victories against higher and evenly matched opponents, especially in the upper weight classes.
“We did have a nice upset in the upper weight class, which is how you win in close matches,” Azevedo said.
Upsets are huge part of wrestling, Azevedo explained that many times the outcomes of matches between favored and underdog wrestlers are known, so getting an upset can completely change the outlook of the meet.
The Dragons will be facing Duke University and American University Saturday, Jan. 31. Both meets will be in Durham, North Carolina. Drexel will be looking forward to the match against American University, a conference foe, to increase their conference record. It will take tough wrestling and possibly some upsets but the Dragons are well equipped to accomplish the task.